In our quest to celebrate Real Heroes, we bring to you an inspiring story of this brave mother. After being cheated by her husband and losing her baby girl at age of two, she dedicated her life to saving the lives of many kids and people suffering from HIV. While sharing her inspiring story with HOB, this mother mentioned:
“I had an arranged marriage at 17; I’d only completed class 10. My husband would often fall sick. When I’d ask about his illness he’d abuse me; when I’d find his pills, he’d say, ‘They’re vitamin tablets.’ He only wanted me to produce a son. But I gave birth to a girl named Kasturi; at the hospital, he hit me and said, ‘I needed a boy!’
3 months later, he fell ill again. The doctors then told me, ‘Your husband has AIDS.’ I was furious! I asked him, ‘Did you know you had HIV?’ and he replied, ‘Yes.’ He married me as his family was pressuring him for a boy child. He casually said he contracted the virus while sleeping with women during his business trips.
A few days later, he succumbed. Kasturi and I got our test results; we tested positive. I held her and wept. I went back home ashamed, but my family took us back with open arms. Still, people stopped coming home. And back then, people with HIV needed to live in treatment hospitals. So, with no other choice, we left.
But the hospital had under-qualified doctors; they’d fear to touch us. There, Kasturi got tuberculosis and died at the age of 2… my world fell apart. My family filed a case for improper medical treatment against the hospital. But I’d given up on life by then.
That’s when my principal from school met me and said, ‘Complete your education.’ He even made my teachers come home to teach me. My attention diverted from Kasturi to my books. My sisters used their savings to send me to college and I completed my Masters in Social Work. But employers would reject me for having HIV. I once changed 13 homes in a month; landlords refused to give me space.
Then the High Court gave me two options after looking through the case my family filed– 2 lakh as compensation for Kasturi’s death or a job. I chose the latter and got placed at the Assam State AIDS Control Society to counsel HIV patients.
There, I began researching HIV and helped introduce skill training for patients, and demanded free medication from the government. A patient I once counseled who now runs a business told me, ‘You gave me strength when I felt my weakest.’ In 2004, I founded the Assam Network of Positive People. With HIV volunteers, I educate school kids about the disease.
But honestly, I wish my daughter’s life wasn’t cut short… I wish I could’ve seen her go to school. So to keep her memory alive, on Kasturi’s birthday, I founded an orphanage in her name. My organization pays for the education and treatment of HIV children. Recently, a 4-year-old was found near a dumping ground where his mother died of HIV– he fought and survived after being treated!
Every year, my children and I cut a cake for Kasturi on her birthday; I also deliver rations to 700 patients. But my happiest moments are when my children call me ‘mumma!’ For as long as I live, I’m going to be there for them and tell them as my family told me, ‘You are HIV positive, but you can always choose to approach life positively.’”
At IFORHER, we salute this woman’s courage and hope many more will take inspiration from her.